IN A PERFECT WORLD, we’d still be boring and intolerable, because we’d all be running around obnoxiously content and at peace with everything, rubbing it in each other’s faces, as if there was absolutely nothing wrong in the world, which would be true, which would make it all that more annoying. On the bright side, the world isn’t perfect, and even better, whenever we foolishly begin to think things can’t get worse, George Saunders is there to remind us, “Why not?”. Exhibit A, an excerpt from his story, “CommComm”:
Dad worked thirty years at Gallup Chain, with his dad. Then they discontinued Automotive. Only Bike remained. A week after his layoff, Grandpa died. Day of the wake, Dad got laid off too. Month later, we found out Jean was sick. Jean was my sister, who died at eight. Her last wish was Disneyland. But money was tight. Toward the end, Dad borrowed money from Leo, the brother he hated. But Jean was too sick to travel. So Dad had an Army friend from Barstow film all of Disney on a Super-8. The guy walked the whole place. Jean watched it and watched it. Dad was one of these auto-optimists. To hear him tell it, we’d won an incredible last-minute victory. Hadn’t we? Wasn’t it something, that we could give Jeanie such a wonderful opportunity?
But Jean had been distilled down to like pure honesty.
“I do wish I could have gone, though,” she said.
“Well, we practically did,” Dad said, looking panicked.
“No, but I wish we really did,” she said.
After Jean died, we kept her room intact, did a birthday thing for her every year, started constantly expecting the worst.
Believe it or not, there’s a happy ending. But even better, maybe there’s such a thing as redemption in real life, too.